Tag Archives: Books

Currently | February 2017

February is wrapping up.  And no, it’s not a leap year.  Consider this a friendly PSA that my birthday is basically moments away (March 1st always seems to sneak up on people).  I’m not always so clear on how timezones work, but I think I’m already 35 on the other side of the world.  Meanwhile, Grace keeps asking if I’m 45 yet.  So there’s that.  

But I don’t want to rush February out the door just yet.  Despite the country imploding, I’m grateful we had things like my nephew’s baptism, Valentine’s Day, the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, Hillary’s message to the people and 70 degree weather to celebrate.  We left our jackets at home and walked on the beach.  We spotted the first plants sprouting.  Spring is coming.

CURRENTLY | February 2017

currently february 2017

Currently eating

  • …like summer has already arrived.  Tacos, tomatoes, salads and strawberries.
  • …dinner with Nick most nights after the kids go to bed (as opposed to snacking from the babes’ plates at 5 o’clock).  It’s been such a nice change.

Currently watching

  • So we watched like 5 minutes of a PBS special featuring various spy cameras disguised as animals, both because it sounded cool and it was not about the government.  The idea is that you get to see animals behaving as if they were not being spied on.  Unfortunately we caught the part where the baby monkey spy camera fell, and the real monkeys thought it had died and were, like, mourning.  It was devastating.  Did I mention that I am generally an emotional basket case?
  • Superstore + Homeland (they sort of balance each other out)
  • 900 “how to sew” YouTube videos 

Currently reading

Currently making

  • …plans for a meaningful Lenten exercise.  In the past I’ve given up Diet Coke, snacking, sugar and swearing (but not all in the same year… I’m neither a saint nor a martyr).  Other years, I’ve added more prayer, more intentional acts of kindness and more time away from technology.  For me, Lent is the ultimate lesson in patience.  In waiting.  In remaining hopeful.  Perhaps I’ll simply meditate on that lesson.  While not drinking a Diet Coke. 
  • A set of mini, mono-printed art journals.  It was a random Tuesday night project, but I am thrilled with the results.  I’ll share photos later this week.
  • A “good behavior” jar.  I am semi-mortified and semi-amazed at how well it’s working.  (To clarify: We are rewarding Grace’s good behavior, not mine…)

Currently listening to

  • “Call on Me” (Ryan Riback Remix) by Starley — it’s the perfect windows down in February song
  • Call Your Girlfriend (podcast)
  • This Irish Flute & Tin Whistle playlist on Spotify… baby Nick and I had music class this morning and the teacher broke out his tin whistle (apparently we missed the Irish flute last week).  Nick was mesmerized in class and keeps dancing and clapping along to this lively mix.  I think it’ll do wonders, too, for those times we are nearrrrrrly home and one or both kids is starting to nod off in the car.  

I hope you’re enjoying these last bits of February and looking forward to a lovely March.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your February?

Happy Weekend

It’s an especially grey day in Boston, and I’ve got plans to get all kinds of housework and errands done… or, um… maybe I’ll just snack on summer tomatoes and watch the Olympics.  

Days like today are perfect for taking a break and recharging a bit.

happy weekend

I’ve got a new book to dive into, a hundred episodes of On Being to listen to, salads to eat, and a blanket fort to build.  

I hope you have a very happy (+ very relaxing) weekend.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Looking for something to do? Check out the 4moms Road Trip tour (Sat + Sun from 11 AM – 4 PM) at the Boston Children’s Museum.  4moms will be exhibiting their new self-installing car seat (like… why didn’t someone invent this sooner?) and giving you the chance to win the ultimate road trip prize pack: a 2016 Honda Pilot AND the full suite of 4moms gear.  You can enter here, but if you show up at their tent this weekend, you can get 5 additional entries, along with other great prizes they’ll be giving away on-site.
  • The O’Donovan brothers and their interviews are my new favorite Olympic thing
  • Making a grocery list with Grace (so far we have: gloves, watermelon, onions, bananas and a “duck toy”…)

What’s On Tap for your weekend?

Today: The old and the new… bookshelves.

I love my books nearly as much as I love reading.  Which is a lot.  When I came home from Minneapolis to find that Nick had ventured to IKEA alone and built a home for the entire rainbow of them, I was quite the happy girl and got right down to business.

You may remember our built-in bookshelves from our first place.

The old

After they spent a few weeks cooped up in moving boxes, I was happy to liberate Charles Dickens and Martha Stewart and Hilary Thayer Hamann.

The new

We’ve still got a few more boxes to unpack, but I may just curl up and read instead.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Wait… it’s not Friday?…
  • Love this: Super Mario bento boxes from The Kitchn
  • Going a little nuts with the washi tape

Read anything good lately?

Today: Grocery haul, and hauling boxes.

A little PSA before we get down to brass tacks:  It’s hot in Boston.  Really hot.  Please be careful, look in on loved ones, check up on elderly neighbors, and — if you can — carry an extra bottle or two of water with you today to share with people who are outside and need relief.  It’s important to take care of one another.  

I’ve been doing a lot of “Oh, crap… we are out of lettuce” and “Maaaaan, I forgot the spicy mustard” lately.  I’ve been doing almost no meal planning, nor list making, nor organized grocery shopping.  I knew things had gotten out of hand when I made three separate trips to the store last week (and um… asked Nick to pick up thirteen other things on his way home).

I had the good fortune (mostly, if you disregard what I did earlier in the day… and yes, I will tell you about that momentarily) to get out of work early on Wednesday, giving me ample time for a leisurely (and more importantly, productive) mid-day shop at my favorite Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods grocery haul

Pardon my glitter centerpiece.

Produce:

  • Basil (and a few lingering Frenchie paws at the top of the photo)
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 4 heirloom mega-tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Snap peas
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 carrots (one for me, one for the dog)
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 box of Olivia’s Organics Spring Mix with Herbs (my absolute favorite)
  • 1 box of Olivia’s Organics Spinach
  • 2 orange bell peppers
  • 1 bag of red grapes
  • 1 bag of Clementines
  • 2 lemons
  • 6 smallish bananas
  • 1 Vidalia onion
  • 2 boxes of Driscoll’s organic raspberries

Dairy:

  • 2 cartons of Stonyfield organic lemon yogurt
  • 2 cartons of Stonyfield organic vanilla yogurt

Random, delicious things:

  • Whole Foods guacamole (or as I like to call it, Heaven in a Container)
  • 1 package of gluten free brown rice paper wraps (for a fun Nasoya recipe I’ll share next week)
  • Amy’s organic vegetarian re-fried black beans with green chilies
  • Green Mountain Gringo tortilla strips
  • GoGo Squeez organic apple sauce on the go (because I am an adult who often eats like a small child, and can’t be bothered to pack a spoon)

These beauts warranted a close up.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day…

My office has had used several storage facilities during my time.  When one closed unexpectedly, we signed a lease (in a panic) at the facility closest to my office.  While convenient, it is also the most terrifying hell hole on the planet.  You may be thinking, It can’t be that bad.  I get it.  I love a good exaggeration as much as the next lady, but trust me.  I have seen things at that storage unit that I will never be able to un-see.  Things that would make grown men and women weep.  I have enough stories (including this one about possibly naked people) to write a book about this place, but I will not.  For the following reasons:

  1. Most people write zero books during their lifetime.  In the event that I am fortunate/talented/patient/focused enough to write one book during my lifetime, I would hate for it to be about a storage unit.  I don’t want that to be my legacy.
  2. It would be sort of depressing.  And kind of gross.  Especially if I include the part about the poop we encountered this week.
  3. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Needless to say, it was time — to quote the King of Pop — to make a change, for once in my life.  After a bit of research, we found a slightly less convenient (but infinitely more safe and clean) facility nearby, and manual labored our way from one place to the other in the span of 24 hours and 9 trips back and forth.  During a heat wave.  Nothing says I run an international organization quite like an inordinate amount of neck sweat.  My heart goes out to those working outside in this weather all the time (I am usually holed up in air conditioning set to “arctic tundra”).  By the time we finished our last load up the stairs at 3:30, it was time to throw in the proverbial sweat towel.

I promise, I (mostly) cleaned up before heading to Whole Foods.

Also On Tap for Today:

When do you get your grocery shopping done?  

 

Today: The weekend according to Instagram XIII.

Lucky thirteen.

The theme of this weekend was boob sweat the arrival of summer weather.  I love the heat.  My dog?  He’s over it.

The weekend according to Instagram XIII

  1. Friday (I’ve decided to start weekends a bit early and lead with Fridays) was Pen Pal Day! at the middle school where I volunteer.  Highlights included a harp performance, breakfast with my seventh grade pal, and an outdoor sing-a-long.
  2. Saturday morning I awoke to find my little herb garden has come alive.  As of last check, we have approximately 5 chive sprouts and 600 basil sprouts (the, um, seed packet sort of exploded when I was putting my little windowsill garden together).  No sign of the parsley.   Rather than watering with a coffee mug (who has a watering can in the city?), which in the past has led to accidental plant drownings, I did a tiny bit of research and have been gently misting the soil each evening with a spray bottle I found in the Target travel aisle for $1.29.  Nothing by the best for the sprouts.
  3. I can’t remember the last time I ran outside (except for every, single morning when I sprint across the crosswalk to avoid getting hit by the MBTA bus…. no regard, I tell you!).  I decided to skip the treadmill, lace up my Kinvaras and hit the road for a quick and hot run along the Harborwalk early Saturday.  I love living right at the intersection of city and sea.  Can’t beat those views.
  4. Did I mention it was hot this weekend?   Sweating buckets.
  5. I joined Nick to sweat a few more buckets at CrossFit Southie on Sunday morning.  As soon as we got back to the condo, we tuned into the Reebok CrossFit Games live feed.  Another weekend, another round of incredible Regionals competitors.  Between the day’s workout (which I loved) and watching the athletes compete, I took some time to think about what I’d like to accomplish this month.  My goal for June is consistency.  With work, travel and other good things happening, I felt like a bit of a flake this spring.  I didn’t make it to the box as often as I would have liked, and found myself making excuses (namely: I am wiiiiiiped) when I could have been making progress.  Even still, I am this much closer to an unassisted pull-up (hello, red band) and have been lifting more weight than ever.  Just imagine what I could do if I, welp… showed up more.  So that’s the plan: show up more.
  6. Sunday’s workout included bent-over barbell rows, ring rows, ring push-ups (I scaled down to hand release push-ups), double unders and wall climbs.  Needless to say, I was feeling the burn.  Literally.
  7. First swim of the year!
  8. I got to spend a little quality time with my niece on Saturday night while the grown-ups celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday.  My niece turns one this month, and gets cooler by the minute.  It’s just amazing.  I love seeing my brother and sister-in-law read to her, and knew this book would be the perfect addition to the baby’s growing collection.  It’s called You are my I love you/Tu eres mi te queiro by Maryann Cushman.  It is available in English only, too, but I love the bilingual version.  Such a beautiful book.
  9. And this is how Clark feels about 91 degrees: complimented, but not interested.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?  Did you stay cool?

 

Today: Be a better listener.

I pride myself on being a good listener.  Sometimes I think people on public transportation can sense that about me.  Oh, and the RMV.  People always think I am a good listener at the RMV.  That’s how I end up on the wrong end of a monologue about that time Linda’s cat’s paw got stuck in the mailbox.  I try to look really mean, but people who love to talk always manage to look past that.

Every once in a while, whether with loved ones or complete sketch balls strangers, I catch myself nodding and making agreement noises without having any real sense of what the other person is saying.  And I start to panic, wondering how much of the conversation I missed, distracted by a shiny object on the horizon or a daydream about inventing a Chuck E. Cheese for adults and their brindle French bulldogs.

Does this ever happen to you?  (The zoning out part, not the Chuck E. Cheese part.)  I happened upon this article from Experience Life magazine (a favorite of mine), and found the section with tips on how to be a better listener especially helpful:

Business consultant Ori Brafman and psychologist Rom Brafman are interested in what allows people to truly bond. In their book, Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (Broadway Books, 2010), they explain how to be fully present during conversations. This involves careful listening, of course, but that’s only the beginning. Here are four of the Brafmans’ suggestions for listening to, and becoming genuinely engaged in, what the other person is saying.

Be intentional. Before engaging in a conversation, consciously decide to be present and open for it. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath before opening the coffee-shop door and turning off your phone before sitting down.

Be attentive. Ask for elaboration. Share your reactions honestly. Demonstrate to the other person that you are actively participating in the conversation.

Be an equal. Avoid giving advice or assuming a one-up or one-down position. Do your best to listen without a plan or an agenda.

Be your own person. Instead of getting preoccupied with how you should respond, be authentic with your emotional reactions to what the other person is saying. Get in touch with how you’re really feeling, and your conversational partner will understand you, too.

I am guessing these tips are most useful when you’re a willing participant in a two-way conversation, but I suppose the orange line or the RMV would be good places to practice becoming a better listener.  Or whatever.

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you a good listener?  Huh?  Whadya say? 

Today: 12/12/12

We visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum a few years ago, and our trusty tour guide assured us the world is not going to end this year.  So there.  No more worrying.  Today marks the first and last time I will see 12/12/12 on the calendar, though.  Unless, like… I invent a time machine, travel to the year 2112 and take a peek at their calendar.  Or whatever.  I’m much too busy for that.  I’m not too busy to give you 12 jams, 12 places, and 12 books however.

12 favorite jams (of the moment)

  1. The White Panda‘s Drake and Diane mash-up.  Download it immediately.  It’s brilliant.
  2. Led Zeppelin – All My Love
  3. Amy Winehouse – Valerie
  4. Bon Iver – Re: Stacks (perfect for lowering your blood pressure, or napping)
  5. The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
  6. Michael Jackson – Human Nature (and also, every song he has ever written, recorded and/or performed… except for the Free Willy theme song)
  7. Nas – One Mic
  8. Pat Green – Carry On (I like to pretend it’s summer when I listen to this song)
  9. Ray Charles – That Spirit of Christmas
  10. The Replacements – Can’t Hardly Wait
  11. Wilson Phillips – Hold On (makes me wish I was in an 80’s girl band… sort of)
  12. Youth Group – Forever Young (and not just because it’s on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack)

12 places in Boston that I just love

  1. The courtyard at the Boston Public Library, Copley Square
  2. The Buddha room at the Museum of Fine Arts
  3. Franciscan Hospital for Children
  4. Castle Island
  5. Dorchester Heights
  6. Bapst Library at Boston College
  7. The penguin exhibit at the New England Aquarium
  8. Our roof deck
  9. The Harborwalk in Fort Point
  10. The docks by the Esplinade
  11. Haley House Bakery Cafe in Dudley Square
  12. Murphy Memorial Rink

12 books on my shelf

  1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand [per Anne‘s recommendation!]
  2. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche
  3. It Starts with Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
  4. Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
  5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (one of the very few books I can read over and over)
  6. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
  7. City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (so, so good)
  8. A New Owner’s Guide to Papillions by Deborah Wood (no… we don’t have one… but the papillion was one of forty types of dogs I thought I wanted before we found Clark)
  9. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
  10. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
  11. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso
  12. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (…arrrrgh)

Happy 12/12/12!

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your favorite jam of the moment?

Today: The power of touch.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]Despite my admissions that I hate people invading my personal space, and would rather snap kick a stranger than be hugged by one, there’s no denying the power of touch.

One of the most challenging and moving books I’ve ever read is There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz.  I read it three times the summer after graduating college, before starting work coordinating a mentoring program for at risk kids.  We called them children of promise, but still, they were and are up against so much.  That book crushed me, and at the same time, inspired me and I have continued to go back to it as my career has evolved.  One passage in particular was on my mind a lot this past week.

Kotlowitz describes, with painful detail, the basic needs that aren’t being met for children living in poverty.  Beyond food, shelter, access to health care and education, he talks about the emotional needs of children– the things I likely took for granted as a child– including the power of touch, and such childhood rites of passage as owning a pet. We had fish, hermit crabs, and the occasional hamster, but I wouldn’t say we were an animal family, if that make sense.  I don’t know if we ever asked our parents for a dog (we probably did), but when the first time I read the passage about children wanting pets so badly, trying to take in strays, but ultimately being unable to care for them, it didn’t fully resonate.

And then I got a dog.  And people stopped us everywhere we went, wanting to pet him.  (He is especially popular with kids waiting for the bus on Broadway and MBTA workers). And I found myself snuggling with him for hours.  And I noticed how, given the choice, he’d always be right at my side.  And I loved seeing him race to the door when Nick got home from work.  Having a dog is like having a constant, albeit furry, hug.

While petting a dog is no substitute for human contact, animals can be great sources of comfort and therapy for people in all walks of life.  I am really excited that after two and a half years of training, Clark became a registered therapy dog on Friday night.  We’ll start social and therapeutic visits in the next few weeks, with opportunities to work with children, adults, and the elderly.

I’m grateful for everyone who has helped Clark perfect his snuggling techniques.  He’s had plenty of practice in his three years on the planet. 🙂  Want to spread the power?  Your assignment: go touch someone… in a non-creepy way.

Also On Tap for Today:

Do you volunteer?  What’s your favorite way to help out?

Today: Prepare to spring forward.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]If you were worried that I had succumbed to a trust fall related injury, never fear.  I am alive and mostly no worse for the wear.  The ceramic skeleton key that used to hang by our table, however, didn’t fare quite so well.  I’ve been tempering last weekend’s festivities with 13 hour days at the office, endless meetings, and welp… staring at this.

The thought of springing forward and subsequently losing an entire hour of sleep has me downright cranky.

Then again, I am usually cranky.  Because I rarely sleep enough.  And sometimes because I eat too much sugar.  I am a work in progress.  High on my self-improvement agenda lately is making quality sleep a priority.  Incidentally, that handle belongs to a door on that cute little cottage in Boothbay Harbor.

While I have a million excuses for both staying up too late, and pressing snooze too many times the following morning, I am making a bit of progress, starting with a mini-makeover.

I went to town at West Elm.  And yes, I do keep a Twitter bird-shaped nightlight at my bedside. You never know when you might need portable illumination.

In addition to my attempt to design on several dimes, I’ve made a few adjustments to my evening and nighttime routines.  Rather than scramble in the morning, I am spending a few minutes before bed putting away dishes, packing my lunch, running a load of laundry, putting away errant shoes and Frenchie toys, picking out an outfit (and then another one for when I decide I hate the first) and carving out my to do list for the next day.  It’s amazing how much more quickly my brain turns off when it’s not preoccupied with the frenzy of the next day.  Speaking of frenzy, I am trying to replace cop shows with reading.  And simplifying my soul.  Sort of.

While 40 days will be up before we know it, I highly recommend this read for anyone trying to incorporate the Lenten message more practically into their day.  From spending 15 minutes in silence, to wearing your oldest clothes, Paula Huston offers really interesting suggestions and exercises for connecting with those who suffer.  I just made the books sound really depressing; it’s not.  Quite the opposite, really.

After reading for a few minutes  in my newly refreshed bed, I think about all that I have to be grateful for.  I turn up my sound machine (set at “ocean”) to full blast, and before you know it, I’m out like a light.  And then I wake up an hour later, and remember that I forgot to set my alarm.  Baby steps.

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you an early riser?  I need your help.

 

Today: The healthy shelf.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false](I summoned all my willpower to not title this post The healthy shelfy.  I love a rhyme.  Especially ones that involve made up words.)  We have quite the healthy collection of books in our housecondohold.  I’ve been making an effort to clear out the random books we’d likely never open again (I rarely read books twice), or that didn’t fit well in our literary rainbow.

Plus, we needed to make room for this guy.

After seeing this set on Pinterest, I quickly ordered one, hoping it would arrive in time for Nick’s birthday.  A few weeks later, I was perusing the always interesting “miscellaneous” section at HomeGoods, when I spotted an identical set (but at a fraction of the price).  Something compelled me to place it in my cart (in hindsight, I think it’s because I am psychic… but in reality, I think I have a problem when it comes to impulse shopping and French bulldogs), even though I had already made the exact same purchase.

When the Pinterest-inspired package arrived, I didn’t fully unpack it, as I was in a rush to wrap Nick’s presents and keep my real, live French bulldog from eating any Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Low and behold, when Nick unwrapped the package, one of the bookends was missing… a foot.  Fortunately, I had a second split-in-two ceramic Frenchie on standby.  Helpful?  Yes.  Normal?  Not really, no.

But that’s beside the point.  As usual.  More to the point, is this:  books are a great way to get healthy and stay healthy.  Some provide motivation or inspiration, others healthy recipes and suggestions for preventative care.  Some you may not want to read in public (say, the one about digestion, for example).  Others might make the perfect gift (I will gladly fake autograph any of these selected titles, to make your present extra sketchy special).  Some make great reference guides you can go back to over and over.  Regardless, I think they’re all worth a read.

A few of my favorites:

  • Michael Pollan’s Food Rules provides the perfect foundation for healthy eating.  No-nonsense, no Fluff (literally and figuratively).  A new edition was recently released, featuring illustrations from the talented Maira Kalman.
  • I was first introduced to Robyn O’Brien and The Unhealthy Truth at a luncheon hosted by Stonyfield Organic a few months ago.  After one of her children experienced a severe allergic reaction to the food Robyn– and most families in the US–was serving, Robyn launched a single-handed investigation into the food industry (including issues of additives and labeling).  Her findings are nothing short of alarming.  I highly recommend that everyone read and learn from Robyn’s story.
  • A Women’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach is not something I’d read in public.  Or in mixed company.  Still, Dr. Wolf provides great information for anyone dealing with digestive issues and a completely un-awkward way.
  • For a little running inspiration, Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers offers a fantastic collection covering the many, varied reasons why women run.  I love the community that running creates.  Everyone has their own motivation for running, and I find that really inspiring.  If you’d like to read about my marathon experiences, feel free to check out these posts:  26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part I), 26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part II), Follow the Signs.
  • The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises is a great resource for at home workouts, and includes detailed instructions and photos for any and every exercise you can imagine.  While it is technically a “big book,” it’s small enough to toss in your gym bag as well.

I could go on and on, but this post is becoming a novel in its own right.  It’s time to tuck these babies back into their color-coded spot on the shelves.  🙂

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your favorite health and fitness reads?